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Living with the Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact: Damn, Sony's phones are getting good

JR Raphael | Nov. 25, 2014
Sony's latest flagship phones are like no other devices out there -- and there's a decent chance one of them might be just what you've been looking for.

The Z3 Compact, meanwhile, is basically just a smaller version of the Z3 -- same look, same style, same design. And it's seriously small by current smartphone standards, which is something I think a lot of people will appreciate.

For perspective, the regular Z3 is 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.29 in.; the Z3 Compact is 5.0 x 2.6 x 0.34 in. That's close to the same size as the original Moto X (actually a hair smaller). It's easy to hold and carry -- not quite as ergonomic as the Moto X, with its warmer materials and gently curved form, but still the right size to fit comfortably into your hand and pocket. It's really a refreshing change from theincreasingly bulky devices that are becoming the norm.

Xperia Z3 Compact, Moto X
Perspective: The 2013 Moto X (left) and Xperia Z3 Compact (right)

The tradeoff, of course, is screen space: The Z3 Compact has a 4.6-in. display while the Z3 has a more typical 5.2-in. screen. The Compact's screen has 720p resolution; the regular Z3 sits at 1080p. The spec-obsessed crowd might turn its collective nose up at those numbers, but the truth is that both resolutions are perfectly appropriate for the screen sizes -- and in real-world terms, both displays look quite good.

The Z3 is by no means big, incidentally -- certainly nowhere near the size of a plus-sized phone like the Nexus 6 or Note 4. It's pretty normal based on today's smartphone standards. The Z3 Compact is just small based on those same standards, much like the original Moto X was when it made its way into our lives last year.

There's not much other than size that sets the two phones apart

What's noteworthy, though, is that there's not much other than size that sets the Z3 Compact apart from its bigger brother. The Compact has a translucent soft plastic trim instead of the metal that adorns the Z3, which makes it look a bit less premium -- but it's a subtle difference, and the Compact is still a striking and attractive device. What's more significant is that both phones have the same outstanding build quality, performance, and stamina. Sony describes them as providing "two-day battery life," and depending on your usage patterns, I'd say that's entirely possible: Even with exceptionally heavy use, I've yet to come close to running out of power on either phone within a single day.

Both phones have great front-facing stereo speakers and one of the best camera setups I've used on an Android device (see my Z3v analysis for a couple of sample shots; all three phones have essentially the same configuration). The phones' cameras are even capable of taking photos underwater, which is a pretty cool feature to have. The devices themselves are both fully waterproof, in fact; you can keep them under as much as almost five feet of water for half an hour if you're so inclined.


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